How Monitoring Centers Benefit from an IT Professional

By Josh Tafoya, Bold Group Technical Trainer

I’ve been here at Bold for 13 years.

I remember a time when customers would send their servers to Bold for installation because, at the time, there was neither sufficient expertise on the customer side to establish VPNs or allow another form of remote access, nor was there sufficient bandwidth on internet connections to allow proper remote access. Over the years, of course, Internet bandwidth has grown and become less expensive, to the point where everyone has a broadband internet connection. But what about that first issue?

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit over 100 Alarm Monitoring Centers. Everything from the very small (monitoring literally only a handful of sites), to the very large (monitoring many hundreds of thousands of sites). I’ve seen actual “Mom and Pop” monitoring centers, to strict corporate environments. If you are monitoring less than a hundred sites, the size of your database and server requirements will simply be a scaled-down version of what is used at a very high-volume monitoring center.

The one thing I’ve seen which is very different across these sites is whether or not IT Professionals are used to manage the IT infrastructure of the alarm monitoring centers.

The ideal situation, which I have seen many times, is having a dedicated IT staff (or person) whose only job is to maintain the servers, workstations, networks, internet, and all the other pieces we don’t think about on a day to day basis. These IT professionals are able to be experts. They are able to establish maintenance schedules, perform updates, practice disaster protocols, and most importantly, troubleshoot problems, all without the risk that another part of their job is somehow being neglected because they are doing IT work.

I’ve worked with a few monitoring centers who have chosen to use someone on their staff to be the de-facto IT person. The head technician. The central station manager. The operator with more than a passing knowledge of IT subjects. While it is completely understandable why companies have some people multitask (why wouldn’t you want two jobs getting done for the price of one?), management may not be fully aware of everything an IT professional should do. Troubleshooting issues is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you are in a corporate environment, there is a very high likelihood you already employ at least one person in your IT department, and you are wise to this truth. But if you are utilizing the situation I mentioned above, where somebody is doing IT in addition to one or more other jobs, a word of advice if I may be so (ahem)… Bold?

Pay for some certification classes. Have this person who is technician/operator/data-entry/IT become solely your IT person. Your IT infrastructure will improve. You will establish best practices for all the parts of your network. And you will be improving your new IT person’s life as well. It will pay countless dividends from a professional standpoint alone.

Of course, I realize there are plenty of monitoring centers who are running a tight ship, and simply can’t afford to budget for a dedicated IT person just now. Knowing where to dedicate your resources is how you grow beyond being a small company. So in these cases, I recommend contracting with a local IT provider. Not for day to day stuff, like figuring out how to install iTunes. Use them for the big jobs, like setting up a VPN, establishing a backup strategy, planning for future network expansion, and of course, to be on call for an IT emergency. You need somebody local to be able to quickly diagnose a network problem or server weirdness… all those “worst case scenarios.”

If you are looking into certification classes for your people, look first into the A+ certifications from Comptia. Look into certifications provided by your hardware vendors (like Cisco CCNA, etc.) And of course, check the training section of boldgroup.com to see upcoming offerings. But demand no less from an outside vendor! A good IT professional will readily share certification information, as well as offer references.

Use them. You’ll be happy you did.